Sonia Gandhi married Rajiv because he was a “handsome young man”, according to an account by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri who cites a light- hearted quip made by the Congress President.
Kasuri’s meeting with Sonia in 2005 finds mention in his new book ‘Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove’ while talking about then President Pervez Musharraf’s 2005 visit to India.
In the book, he remembers receiving Sonia, the Congress Party President, when she called on Musharraf.
Sonia seemed rather reserved when she came for the meeting, Kasuri writes.
He says in the book that he received her in the waiting room prior to the meeting with the President. She was accompanied by Natwar Singh.
“I thought I could cheer her up and mentioned that while I was at Cambridge, I remember strolling with Sohail Iftikhar (son of Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din, who had been a prominent Congress leader and a friend of both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru).
“And seeing a handsome young man walk from the opposite direction on the Kings Parade. When I asked Sohail who this young man was, he whispered to me that his name was Rajiv and that he was the grandson of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,” Kasuri writes.
“The moment Sonia heard me refer to Rajiv as a handsome young man, she broke into a broad smile and said good humouredly, ‘That is why I married him’,” Kasuri says.
Referring to another interesting event during the 2005 visit, the former foreign minister writes about the last one-day match between India and Pakistan in Delhi.
He says that “when we arrived at the Ferozeshah Kotla Ground, Sonia Gandhi and Foreign Minister Natwar Singh were already present.”
“A carnival atmosphere prevailed in the stadium, with a fair Pakistani presence loudly cheering Shahid Afridi in full swing. I had the odd feeling that his shots were aimed in our direction. Foreign Minister Singh light-heartedly commented, ‘Aap Afridi ko bhee apnay sath hee lai jaen’ (Take Afridi back home with you),” Kasuri writes.
He says that unlike the cheering Pakistani crowd in the general stands, the Indians and Pakistanis in their enclosure were polite and restrained in their reactions.
“As the match entered an interesting stage, President Pervez Musharraf expressed his desire to delay leaving the stadium for his meeting with Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh (who was sitting next to him).
The President suggested to Prime Minister Singh that they should return to the stadium at the end of their scheduled meeting at Hyderabad House.
“Before long however, President Musharraf and I received chits informing us that the match had ended earlier than anticipated, with Pakistan not only winning the match hands down but also clinching the series,” Kasuri says. PTI/Pakdestiny